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Syria worries send Wall Street slumping

NEW YORK The stock market sagged in afternoon trading Monday after Secretary of State John Kerry ratcheted up pressure against Syria.

The Dow Jones industrial average began falling shortly after Kerry's remarks. It was up almost 30 points just before. Kerry called last week's attack a "moral obscenity," increasing the U.S.'s criticism of the regime.

The Dow lost 64 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 14,946.

The S&P 500 index lost six points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,656. The Nasdaq composite lost a fraction of a point, closing at 3,657.

Stocks started the day higher after a handful of corporate deals were announced.

Amgen surged 8 percent, the biggest gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, after the biotech giant said it plans to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals for $10.4 billion. The merger, announced late Sunday, would give Amgen three approved cancer treatments and several others in clinical trials.

In economic news, the government reported that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods plunged 7.3 percentlast month, the steepest drop in nearly a year. Demand for commercial aircraft sank and businesses spent less on computers and electrical equipment.

Jack Ablin, the chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago, said it's likely that investors are looking past the one bad economic report because so many major events loom ahead.

The Federal Reserve will start a two-day meeting Sept. 17 at which officials will discuss easing support for the economy. After that, Germany holds national elections that could change how the region handles rescue loans for troubled countries. Congress returns from vacation next week and will have to take up a new budget before the fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

"These issues are big enough to transcend daily data," Ablin said.

It's also expected to be a quiet week, because volume usually dries up in the last weeks of August. Trading desks are thinly staffed, as Labor Day marks the end of Wall Street's summer vacation.

News that members of the Pritzker family have agreed to buy TMS International sent the company's stock up 12 percent. The deal values the service provider to steel mills at roughly $1 billion. The Pritzker family, one of America's wealthiest, operates a global industrial conglomerate and founded the Hyatt hotel chain. Penny Pritzker is currently the Secretary of Commerce.

TMS jumped $1.91 to $17.48.

With five trading days left in August, the major indexes are on track to end the month with slight losses. The Dow is down 3 percent for the month and the S&P 500 is down 1 percent. The Dow is on track for its worst month since May 2012.

In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year note slipped to 2.79 percent from 2.82 percent late Friday.

Crude oil slipped 50 cents to $105.92 a barrel and gold fell $2.70 to settle at $1,393 an ounce.

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